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“We’ve got plenty of milk in the beef cattle industry, and more is not going to help because milk is expensive from a nutrient requirement standpoint,” he says. “In most situations, I encour- age producers to consider breed-average to below breed-aver- age genetics for milk for that reason. The last thing you want to create is a situation where you have genetic potential for 30 pounds of milk yield with forage that can only support 20 pounds of milk yield.” Lalman also warns against trying to increase overall cow size in an effort to increase weaning weights, because bigger cows do not necessarily wean big enough calves to make it a profit- able management decision. He has found that increasing an average cow herd size by 100 pounds can produce anywhere from 6 to 20 pounds more wean- ing weight, but those extra pounds are not near enough to pay for the increased cow weight. “It costs somewhere between $40 to $50 to keep 100 pounds of cow weight around for an entire year,” he says. “If you do the math, that 6-20 pounds of extra calf weight is only worth about $6-$25.” Instead, Lalman suggests working toward building an effi- cient cow herd that thrives in the local environment, and then selecting and managing for enhanced post-weaning perfor- mance and carcass quality within that framework. “We have old and new tools and technology today [cross- breeding, composite systems, EPDs] to build an efficient cow that is a match to environmental conditions, fertile, maintains good body condition and weans a calf every year with efficient, post-weaning performance and carcass quality,” he says. BB
The Interplay of Frame Size and Production Efficiency What Is the Right Size? By Lauren L. Hulsman Hanna, Ph.D., Assistant Professor; Michaella A. Fevold, Student; and Robert J. Maddock, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Animal Sciences, North Dakota State University
T he beef cattle industry remains a unique set of geneti- cally diverse breed types, where each serves a purpose within the industry. Frame size, expressed as either a calculated or subjective frame score, provides produc- ers an understanding of lean-to-fat ratio potential in their ani- mals. The end result of any beef cattle operation is meeting con- sumer demands, but a cow-calf producer must also weigh con- sequences of size on cowherd performance. So, what kind of cows can be used to get desirable offspring? A producer must first define what a desirable offspring is. If being sold for weaningweight value, thenmore pounds at wean- ing is desired. This can be accomplished either through bigger calves or more calves weaned. With the right crossbreeding scheme, bigger calves are not necessary. Rather, increasing the number of calves produced can be much more efficient while moderating cow size.
By crossbreeding, producers also benefit from heterosis, which means survival traits and maternal attributes of cross- bred dams get a boost (i.e., improved performance) just be- cause of improved gene combinations. Picking the right breeds is an important factor here. Determining the “right” size cattle is dependent on produc- tion goals and income sources. Even so, bigger does not always mean better. Therefore, it is critical that producers consider options to maintain efficient production systems while also maximizing profit. Recent research shows that even within size groups, variability exists (i.e., nutritionally efficient cows can be found in small cows). This suggests, with the right selection tools, frame size does not dictate every trait and can be used to change the average. BB